Or, Thoughts About Self-Employment-Type-Stuff from a 20-Something Who’s Still Figuring It Out

America is a nation of brand identity and advertising. If we aren’t feeling superior based on our deodorant choice, or that our selection of cereal somehow means something about how serious we are about heath or fighting types of cancers, then we aren’t doing it right.

My soup choice means something...right?

My soup choice means something…right?

Even though we all logically know this is a heaping pile of poopy alpaca crap, on some level it permeates. Advertising is designed to permeate without our consent – that’s the genius part about how effective it is, right? – and if it were something we could opt out of without throwing the television in the garbage, well, then, this world would be a much different place.

But what can our brand loyalties teach us, other than the fact that we’re slavishly supporting a corporation that is probably making millions of dollars off of our misplaced and overly-idealized allegiances?

I began owning and utilizing laptops of my own accord around age 18. After several laptop purchases had come and gone, I realized that my choice was always Sony Vaio.

I loved everything about them. The shape, the style, the power, the logo. I liked associating myself with Sony – “I’m a Sony girl”, “Oh trust me, I’d never get anything other than a Sony” – and I began to delude myself, to a certain extent, that this was some sort of basic, unalterable truth about me. It was something that I had chosen for myself, and as a burgeoning adult, it felt good to identify with something bigger than me.

I am Shannon. I am Sony Girl.

Years came and went under the unblinking eye of Vaio laptops. Even when one of them died and I was forced to receive whatever replacement laptop I could get within a week’s time before I left the country, it was a Sony Vaio. (I swear, I didn’t plan that.)

But then a time came when I had to face a hard and somewhat unpleasant truth about my beloved company. Sony’s customer service had left me high and dry in a time of need. As an American living abroad, I utilize my laptop as my sole source of income generation. In other words, I live and die by my computer now.

OK, so it's not exactly like this...but wouldn't it be cool??

OK, so it’s not exactly like this…but wouldn’t it be cool??
[Image Credit: www.foxbusiness.com]

Not only is it the vehicle for income earning for three different jobs, my laptop is also my primary means of writing, blogging, organizing my life, and keeping in touch with literally every single person I know. I must have a computer that works. And this Vaio stopped working 9 months into our relationship, without any sort of warning that it had been dissatisfied or seeking a different arrangement.

I sent that baby in, and Sony told me the motherboard had corroded. Despite still being under that automatic one-year warranty, this issue wasn’t covered. My $1k investment was worthless and they wouldn’t be replacing it. The warranty didn’t cover ‘spills’, even though the cause of my laptop’s death was 100% not related to any spill. There was no arguing, no way out. I had a very expensive piece of garbage.

Sure, I'll just throw this money in the toilet...

Sure, I’ll just throw this money in the toilet…

I couldn’t afford this scenario again. Though I’ll vehemently deny that I ever spilled anything on that laptop until the day I die, the incident taught me some lessons that are important to consider at any stage in the self-employed/ex-patriot/young professional/20-something-wanderer/anybody with a passion and need for computer lifestyle. These also apply very well to almost any other arena of life. Here they are:

Take your work equipment seriously. As in, insure it seriously. If you live and die by a piece of equipment, then you better be sure that it is covered in all moments of life and death. And this means buying extra warranties, extra spill coverage, extra drop protection, and whatever else those MF’ers are offering you. (Haay, tax deductions!)

  • EXTRAPOLATED LIFE LESSON: Take a bunch of other stuff seriously, like your health, and your home. Insure that shit, and be prepared for those moments you think might never come but always do when you least expect it.

Feedback is key. As I began the hunt for The Next Laptop. I felt obliged to remain loyal to my brand – after all, I was a VAIO GIRL – but I was feeling the burn from the recent mishap. Did I want to trust them to protect me again? What if something like that had happened while I was abroad? What other models could they offer where the same thing wouldn’t happen? After researching thoroughly online (as opposed to blindly following my brand loyalty), I found that most actual Vaio Users had a similar complaint: the customer service is shit. That’s a big deal when you suddenly find yourself in a position where you need a helping hand. And in my hunt for The Next Laptop, I began to look seriously at companies’ customer service ranking, not to mention losing hours of my life sifting through personal experiences in computer forums.

  • EXTRAPOLATED LIFE LESSON: Listen to others that have been there. Seek counsel. The experience of others can be extremely useful or extremely useless as you make your own decisions — but knowing more is always better.

Be honest about what’s out there. Before I found my current work laptop, my number one priority for the laptop was that it was a Vaio. I’m not even kidding. Second and third on my list were color (white) and size (ultra-light). I was essentially seeking a Macbook with Windows but struggled to remain loyal to my Vaio roots. After the warranty burn with Vaio, I slowly and painfully began to research other brands. I didn’t even know where to begin, and had all sorts of extremely outdated judgments about other laptops (Acer is CRAP; Dell is UGLY; Toshiba is only for ROCK CLIMBERS). But once I began narrowing my most important attributes – lightweight because I travel a lot, but not extremely small because I write a lot, fast enough to multitask like the multitasking ninja I am, etc – I began to have a more reasonable pool of options. From there, I went onto the lesser important details, like *cough* similarities to MacBook.

  • EXTRAPOLATED LIFE LESSON: Don’t kid yourself about any aspect of your life. Our expectations and fantasies can color our realities, so be real about whats actually in front of you: whether it be a job, a relationship, a financial situation, etc.

Be prepared for losses at any time. Being that I maintain a bi-coastal existence (part of the year in South America, part in North America), my crap is pretty spread out. I have a hard drive with all of my important information from Ever in North America, and then a portable one with more recent backups that travels with me. But when the Vaio motherboard went on hiatus, and then later my gifted laptop came down with a registry error disease while I was backpacking and unable to fix it, I realized something very stark and very painful: have your shit backed up at all times. There’s plenty of businesses out there strictly aimed at this, so finding some sort of cloud backup or on-the-go reserve isn’t a hard task. For me, it was more about learning to take it seriously. Like insuring my equipment in any and all circumstances. Thankfully, I haven’t lost anything irreplaceable. But I have lost plenty of hilarious and otherwise great first drafts of articles and stories that I would pay a pretty penny to have back in my hands.

  • EXTRAPOLATED LIFE LESSON: Losses come in many forms, and as morbid as it may sound, they’re waiting for all of us. Loss of material possessions, loved ones, health, even our own memories… Know that it is part of life, and just be as prepared as you can be for when the loss eventually arrives.

Lessons come where they can, I suppose, extrapolated and otherwise. For someone who began programming a Commodore 64 at age 7 and spends a disproportionately high number of hours staring at a screen comprised of pixels, it only makes sense that some of my learnings came via laptop. And as I sit comfortable and content behind my super skinny, super light, white, touchscreen Acer Aspire s7, I can’t help but think that the constantly visible Aspire brand might have had something to do with this piece, this inspiration, or maybe something about who I am as a person overall.

But no – I am no longer a girl of any one company, much less an Acer girl. I am simply Shannon. But I certainly love using this Acer, and for anyone interested in buying, I give this baby a full two thumbs up.